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New York Yankees notes: All things Johnson

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What does the Nick Johnson signing mean for the New York Yankees? Perhaps the best assessment comes from Tyler Kepner of the New York Times.

Losing [Johnny] Damon will hurt. Even General Manager Brian Cashman acknowledged on Thursday that Damon is "the perfect two-hole hitter for this place." The Yankees will miss Damon’s speed, his quality at-bats and his ability to put the bat on the ball. And they will miss his personality, of course. But the Yankees priced Damon at about $9-10 million per year, for two years at the most, and they believe they can live with Johnson. 

Johnson’s assets and drawbacks are obvious. The good: he’s a left-handed hitter, he knows the Yankees and he got on base at a better rate last year (.426) than everybody except Joe Mauer and Albert Pujols. The bad: he’s slow, he’s prone to injury, and he plays a position already occupied by Mark Teixeira

Then again, by keeping Johnson off the field, the Yankees can limit his risk of injury, and there is no rule that says Johnson would have to be the starting D.H. every day. The Yankees could use Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Teixeira there as often as they like. Johnson, a happy-go-lucky guy, has been itching to play for a winner since the Yankees traded him to the Montreal Expos (remember them?) after the 2003 World Series. Also, there is this: next year’s free-agent class could be the best ever, with Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee, Joe Mauer, Brandon Webb and Jayson Werth -– not to mention Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. The Yankees figure to spend an awful lot of money in that market, and they want to save payroll and keep commitments short wherever they can. 

In the big picture, the Yankees are replacing Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui with Curtis Granderson and Johnson. So they swap two older left-handed hitters who made $26 million in 2009 for two younger left-handed hitters who will make about $14 million in 2010. They replace a speed guy and a slow guy with another speed guy and slow guy.

My take: I will miss Matsui and Damon, but I like the reasoning behind this. To me, that money is key. Both in terms of being able to bring in another starting pitcher this off-season and -- perhaps more importantly -- setting themselves up for a big splurge next winter. 

About Damon

The apparently now former Yankee outfielder has no idea what will happen next for him. But, he is not bitter.

"I have nothing but great things to say about the Yankees. If the Nick Johnson thing works out, it will be good for them," Damon told the Daily News last night. "It's part of baseball.

"I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do. I know there are some teams interested, but the Yankees are the best organization I've been a part of so far in my career. I wish them all the best."

With the Yankees out of the picture, it will be interesting to see what kind of deal the 36-year-old Damon can get.

"I guess we'll have to see now if (agent Scott) Boras gets Damon a three-year contract," said a baseball official, who suggested the most likely landing spot for Damon will be San Francisco, although the Giants are unlikely to give him three years.

Granderson's day

The Yankees formally welcomed Granderson, in a news conference Thursday at Yankee Stadium. One of last season's big off-season prizes, CC Sabathia, was in attendance and his comments might have been the most intriguing of the day.

"I think earlier in his career, when he first came up, he was driving balls to left field, and I think he was tougher on lefties then," Sabathia said. "He was hitting the ball in the gap in left-center.

"Then he started hitting a few home runs and got a little pull-happy. I think that's why lefties were able to stay away from him and throw slower stuff and have success against him."

To help fix the situation, Granderson said that he'd like to talk to Sabathia about the way he was pitched -- two-seamers in and plenty of outs away, Sabathia said -- and also check with Robinson Cano, who has hit lefties well in his career.

But the most important advice will come from hitting coach Kevin Long, with whom Granderson spoke on Monday and is planning to see after he completes working out with outfielder Nick Swisher.